August 24, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Rejects Return to USDA; Media Rejects Reporting Relevant Info

http://i739.photobucket.com/albums/xx40/mmatters/SherrodsThe theater of the Sherrods continues.

Earlier today, Shirley Sherrod, who, according to the current version of ruling class wisdom, was prematurely evacuated from the USDA by Director Tom Vilsack, decided not to accept an offer to return to the agency.

Instead, according to Politico’s Matt Negrin, “she hasn’t accepted the department’s offer to work there again, but that she wants ‘some type of relationship’ with it later.” We wouldn’t closure or anything, would we?

Five weeks or so have intervened since Andrew Breitbart posted a video excerpt of Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP event. (It should be noted USAactionnews.com actually posted the video earlier; though their link has been taken down, their original July 15 tweet is here.)

In that time, the establishment press has either seriously downplayed or totally ignored the several important items relating to the background and outlook of Ms. Sherrod and her husband Charles.

The earliest discovery was Shirley Sherrod was appointed to her position as Georgia Director of Rural Development on July 25, 2009. That appointment came mere days after her former co-op farm New Communities, Inc. (NCI) “won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.” This settlement included “$150,000 each to Shirley and Charles for pain and suffering.” How odd, to say the least, for a victorious plaintiff to end up working for the losing defendant.

Then, about a week after Breitbart’s video drop, another video surfaced, this time of Charles. Delivering the keynote address at a “race and law conference” at the University of Virginia School of Law, Sherrod his audience:

(To young African-Americans in the audience) “Please find a way, find a way that we can trust each other. So that our monies can work for our total liberation. … Our labor and our monies and our contracts usually end up in white folks’ hands and pockets. When will we trust our own?”

“… we must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections. We must not be afraid to vote black.”

Charming.

Finally, there were the shocking accusations by black activist and Cal State professor Ron Wilkins at Counterpunch that during at least the late 1960s and early 1970s, NCI “under-paid, mistreated and fired black laborers–many of them less than 16 years of age–in the same fields of southwest Georgia where their ancestors suffered under chattel slavery.” Wilkins cited tangible, same-time evidence that NCI was struck by the United Farm Workers. An article in a September 28, 1974 UFW publication (“Children Farm Workers Strike Black Co-op”) leveled the following accusations directly at Charles Sherrod (the first word in the original is “through,” which is erroneous):

Though several of the cooperative’s funding organization’s are pressuring Charles Sherrod, the farm’s manager, to reach a settlement with the strikers, he remains unwilling to negotiate.

With so few scabs left in New Community’s (sic) fields, the UFW first strike in the southeast area (outside of Florida) may bring the first of many UFW contracts to these fields that were once harvested by slave labor.

NCI employed scab labor, and somehow that’s not worth reporting. Uh-huh.

Wilkins makes it clear that Shirley Sherrod was also heavily involved in NCI’s operations: “Shirley Sherrod was New Communities Inc. store manager during the 1970s. As such, Mrs. Sherrod was a key member of the NCI administrative team, which exploited and abused the workforce in the field.”

For this, the Sherrods and NCI deserved $13 million?

As of about 3 PM Eastern Time, a Google News search on “Sherrod Vilsack” (not in quotes; sorted in date order) returned 290 items (search results saved at my host for future reference). A search on “Sherrod Vilsack Wilkins” (not in quotes; sorted in date order) returned one result (also saved) — my August 3 Washington Examiner blog post about NCI’s alleged worker exploitation. Update: As of 6:20 p.m., the search results (sherrod vilsack; sherrod vilsack wilkins) were virtually identical.

If the non-coverage of the items raised above continues, this journalistic dereliction of duty will end up at or near the top of the list of the most disgraceful establishment press cover-ups I’ve ever seen. I’d love to be proven wrong.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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